Asparagus is a long-lived perennial vegetable crop that is enjoyed by many gardeners. It can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care.
Asparagus grows in most any soil as long as it has good drainage. Asparagus roots do not like waterlogged soils that will lead to root rot. It prefers a soil pH of 6.5-7.5., and will not do well if the pH is less than 6.0. Add lime if necessary to raise the pH.
Buy one-year-old, healthy, disease-free crowns. A crown is the root system of a one-year-old asparagus plant that is grown from seed. Each crown can produce 1/2 lb. of spears per year when fully established.
- Asparagus can be planted from mid-April to late May after the soil has warmed up to about 50 degrees F. Plant the asparagus at either the west or north side of the garden so that it will not shade the other vegetables and will not be injured when the rest of the garden is tilled.
- Dig a furrow no deeper than 5 to 6 inches. Research has shown that the deeper asparagus crowns are planted, the more the total yield is reduced. Apply 30 pounds of compost per 50 feet of row in the bottom of the furrow before planting.
- Place the crowns in the furrow on top of the fertilizer. Space the crowns 1-1/2 feet apart in the row. If more than one row is planted, space the rows five feet apart from center to center. Wide between-row spacing is necessary because the vigorously growing fern will fill in the space quickly.
- After planting, back fill the furrow to its original soil level. It isn't necessary to gradually cover the crowns with a few inches of soil until the furrow is filled in. However, do not compact the soil over the newly filled furrow or the emergence of the asparagus will be severely reduced. Spears should emerge within one week in moist soils.
- Do not harvest the asparagus during the planting year. Let the ferns produce food for the plant and then move it down to the crown for next year's spear production.
- Young plants need and inch of water a week for the first year. Once established, asparagus is very drought tolerant and can usually grow without supplemental watering because it seeks moisture deep in the soil.
- In future years, top dressing with compost each spring will keep your asparagus patch healthy and productive.